Mai-Thu Perret

30 November 2018 - 12 January 2019

As part of its Viewing Room programme, Simon Lee Gallery is pleased to present a solo presentation of ceramic works by gallery artist Mai-Thu Perret. Known for her multi-disciplinary practice that engages installation, performance, sculpture, textile, and the written word, Perret derives inspiration from such avant-garde art movements of the twentieth-century as Dada, Constructivism and Bauhaus design, exploring the ways in which modernist form and artisanal genres, including craft, fashion and theatre, collide.

Since 1999 much of Perret’s practice has developed around her invented narrative, The Crystal Frontier, which follows the progress of a group of women who form an autonomous commune in the remote desert of South Western New Mexico in an attempt to liberate themselves from the prohibitive parameters of capitalism and patriarchal convention. Since its inception, Perret’s unique project has evolved across an array of media, all produced from the perspective of the commune’s members. The artist’s interest in ancient civilisation, feminist politics, literary texts and homemade craft has seen the creation of invented relics, blending traditional, artisanal and spiritual practices with a postmodern aesthetic.

Perret’s ceramic wall reliefs are at once representational and abstract, morphing from geometric shapes into figurative forms found within the fictive universe of The Crystal Frontier, both quotidian – eggs, gates, heads of hair – and esoteric – ancient symbols and patterns that also occur within the modernist canon to illustrate universal themes. In this way the artist invokes the plastic nature of clay, a malleable material that loses its elasticity once it is fired in the kiln. Distinguished by their minimal compositions the ceramics nonetheless conjure a myriad of associative images, only enhanced by their lyrical titles, which recall ‘capping phrases’, an articulation of the experience of enlightenment in the tradition of Zen Buddhism. Designed to be illuminating but not necessarily explicative, these found fragments of verse underline the discrepancy between art objects and the language used to describe them, at the same time as encouraging the viewer to imagine the role and function of these sculptures within the context of the world of The Crystal Frontier.